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Perhaps you heard the news the other day, just about every music news outlet I saw had the story. After months and months of hearing that the latest release from Radiohead would not be out till early next year, this extremely progressive band has once again defied everyone's expectations.
You may remember earlier this year I wrote a piece about Radiohead being without a record label and how I felt that they would be one of the bands changing how music is acquired in recent years. It appears they had the same idea as their new album will be released as a download online this coming week, October 10th to be exact, for the huge price of... get this... whatever you want to pay for it. That's right, if you choose to download this album, called In Rainbows, you can fill in whatever cost you want when you proceed through the online check out meaning you could potentially get the album for free, or nearly free. Along with the the band is also offering a discbox version of the album for a set price of around $81. That may seem steep put it sounds like it's more of a true collectors edition as you not only get the original 10 song album on CD, but you also get it on heavyweight 12in vinyl (yes records), an additional CD with another 8 sounds on it, photos, lyric booklet and artwork all in a hardcover book. Apparently there will also be a traditional CD release around March, but with the downloads available in the next few days and discboxes shipping by early December, both of those options seem better in my opinion.
Now I don't know about you and maybe I'm jaded by being a huge Radiohead fan, but this maneuver seems like a mark of absolute genius.
First, they're offering their music to fans in what is for many a preferred format, DRM-free digital music. Second, they're giving it to them basically for free with any costs that people choose to pay acting more like a donation. That in itself is a brilliant maneuver because it gets their album in the hands of whoever wants it without all the hassle of... well money. People who are not bing fans might be far more willing to check out this new album in this scenario, something that could potentially expand their audience. At the same time, it builds loyalty with their current fan base because I don't think anyone can claim they're just in it for the money and the fact that they're offering it online in this way, shows that they understand a little bit what their audience wants. Adding to the genius though, is this discbox idea. Sure it's a little pricey, but for collectors like myself, I'd rather have a physical copy plus as much material as possible when it comes to albums because I like having additional tracks, liner notes etc as, like I've written before, it makes the album sort of a multimedia piece, with music at it's center. Also, the fact that it includes the album on vinyl, a format very coveted by collectors and perhaps slated for a bit of a revival (if it isn't reviving already). And lastly, the icing on the cake, like I said in a previous post, Radiohead is doing all of this without the backing of a major record label (at least to my knowledge). That means whatever money they make from the album is their's, not 90% their labels.
It seems like they have covered all the bases. Would be pirates can now have the album for free, as can everyone else so they don't have to worry about file sharing wreaking havoc on album sales, collectors get their enhanced version, and the band gets their music out to the masses with minimal fuss without losing a good portion the revenue to their label.
I think the fact that they're doing this on their own and without a label is key. If this album is a success, which I almost guarantee it is because Radiohead has such a loyal fan base already and their albums are incredibly creative and constantly pushing the envelope, it might just pave the way for other artists to do the same. That will change everything.
This is a very interesting time for the music industry. Times are changing and it looks like Radiohead has picked up on that too. I can't say I'm surprised. They've always seemed like a band that was light years ahead of everyone else.
If you're a fan of the band or not, check out the website they have devoted to this new album as currently that is the only place it will be available and where you can pre order both the downloads and the discboxes. Here's the site: www.inrainbows.com